Reflections on The Bleeding Wound – by Zach Rotter

Critics' Choice Award 2011 (Cuba)

Critics’ Choice Award 2011 (Cuba)

In The Bleeding Wound, Mirta Yáñez casts waves of hopeless shadow over Havana and its crumbling tenements, pockmarked streets, and slowly withering people. Characters move ghostlike through their lives, holding emptiness barely at bay as they slowly stumble closer to some lonely closure.

Martin’s pen is held back by self-hatred. Is he a coward or a noble bastion for living this life without “succumbing like the Dead Girl?” (loc. 3235). Martin calls himself a coward for “navigating” through the pathless foggy landscape he wanders through aimlessly each heavy, sickening day as he searches all the redolent fixtures of Havana for traces of memory worth putting on paper. Martin is afflicted with the same disease the Dead Girl suffered from, but Martin survives on fear and lack of motivation, his hand held back like third act Hamlet. Is Martin correct to berate himself for his lack of action, for struggling to stay alive amidst the slow ebb of color from his disintegrating life, or is this struggle to stand strong within the winds of dysphoria worthy of praise? Perhaps it is merely fear restraining Martin from suicide, but maybe there is something more to his perseverance than that: maybe all the disillusioned inhabitants of Hanava’s dim-lit nighttime streets are closer to saints than they realize, since despite the devastating heaviness of their unlived lives pressing down upon them they refuse somehow to fall beyond the tumbling russet sunset into the ready hands of comfortable death.
These pages are not parable. I would be doing them a disservice if I condensed their artistry to mere message or a list of sententious instructions. Within the words I found not one single depiction of correct behavior but rather a miasma of conflicting reactions to the suicide that lies at the core of story, sending its tendrils shivering through the lives of the characters as they contemplate its complex relation to their desperate situations. To some the suicide is a siren call to the shores of death–Martin believes he is brave for taking this final step, and perhaps throwing his pages to the waves is the beginning of his own descent–but others, like myself, see the suicide as a severe reminder of the consequences of giving in to the depression that lurks in every life.

Among her fellow citizens of Havana, the Dead Girl is the only one who takes serious action. It may be tempting to watch her burst from this lame lingering life into the flames of death that seem so soothing and conclude that she is better off away from the ice age it sometimes feels we are frozen within. But I think in a way the Dead Girl has saved us all from her fate; she has sacrificed herself so we won’t follow her footsteps off the dangerous edge of the rooftop. I can feel her sadness; with her ray of light extinguished by her friend’s betrayal she can only leap to her death to escape life’s malaise.

However, this death is given to us as a gift, a look at the fate that awaits us if we should not learn from her example. Her failure to continue serves to invigorate the rest of us to live like we’re worth something. We are all reborn out of the ashes left on the streets of Havana by the Dead Girl’s irrevocable decision, and perhaps if Havana was dying, the Dead Girl has died in its place, leaving behind a litany of people determined to push forward rather than sink in place. The outlook is still gloomy, but by thrusting the dull glare of death into startling reality it may be that the Dead Girl has inspired some to wander through another day.

Available November 2014 in bilingual edition.

This entry was posted in Cuba, Cuban literature, Cuban women, Cubanabooks publications, Feminism, Latin American Literature, Mujeres cubanas, Women writers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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